By JED WEISBERGER
PHILADELPHIA – Just what has the Philadelphia Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins made himself into?
Just ask Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Steven Brault. The righty watched Brault advance as a hitter, when both were in the Triple-A International League in 2017, before finishing their respective spots in the majors.
Brault was at Indianapolis in the Pirates chain, putting together a 10-5, 1.94 mark in 21 games (20 starts), while Hoskins hit .284 (114-for-401) with 29 homers and 91 RBIs at Lehigh Valley.
“Rhys always had the power,’’ said Brault after Hoskins’ three-run homer off Michael Feliz cost both the Bucs and Brault a win last weekend in Citizens Bank Park. “But he is doing a lot more than that now at the plate. He’s really made himself into a very dangerous hitter.’’
Hoskins, who is a little more than a month older than Brault – both are 25 – first came into view with a powerful Class-AA Reading Eastern League team in 2016. He batted .281 (140-for-498), with 38 homers and 116 RBIs, but also had 125 strikeouts.
But when the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hoskins got to Lehigh Valley, he struck out just 75 times, chopping 50 off his total in just 97 fewer at-bats. An accomplishment.
“I really worked on reading pitches and what the pitchers were trying to do with me,’’ said Hoskins, who burst on to the National League scene late in 2017, debuting Aug. 10 and eventually bashing 18 homers and 48 RBIs in 50 games. He batted .259 (44-for-170). Even though he struck out 46 times, it’s understandable when a hitter first bats against big-league pitching.
So far in 2018, the native of Sacramento, Calif., who played collegiately at Sacramento State being selected by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, is hitting .338 (25-for-74) with four homers and 19 RBIs in 24 games.
His OBP is .495, his slugging percentage .608 and OPS 1.103.
Hoskins came through the Phillies system as a first baseman, but, as an athlete, was certainly not limited to that position. With the Phillies signing Carlos Santana to a 3-year, $60 million contract to play first base, he settled easily into a corner outfield spot.
“I’ll play wherever they want me to,’’ said Hoskins. “It doesn’t matter where I play as long as I am in there contributing. There are still things I’m working on, still things I feel I need to get better with.
“You always have to have that attitude. We want to win. We have a lot of talent in our clubhouse and we’re having a lot of fun.’’
The Phillies, after 25 games, are 15-9 after Thursday’s play, just a half-game behind the Mets in the National League East.
Hoskins is one of the young stars who will power the Phillies in an accelerated rebuilding that almost certainly will lead to contention. The team is not far from that with the acquisitions of Santana and starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. The club has plenty of money for more with a $2 billion TV contract.
Hoskins, however, is the best kind of developing star. He’s home-grown.